What’s the REAL reason behind the Margate Mayor’s effort to grab control of Lucy The Elephant? We’re pretty sure it’s NOT Mayor Becker’s desire to run an attraction, snack bar or gift shop.
Rather, we think Margate politicians and their hand-picked planning board want easier developer access to this prime beachfront property.
The clock is ticking. Just a few months left on the current lease between Lucy and the City of Margate. The current lease is set to expire at the end of this year, on Dec. 31, 2019.
Will Lucy The Elephant come to terms with the City? According to multiple sources, and contrary to what city-sanctioned media is posting, both parties are still far from an agreement.
FACT: For decades, the Save Lucy Committee (SLC) worked to keep Lucy off the scrap heap. Condemned by local leadership. The City of Margate wanted absolutely nothing to do with Lucy.
First question: who exactly ‘owns’ Lucy the Elephant? We’re placing our bet that it’s the Save Lucy Committee. At one time, Mayor Becker, Commissioner Blumberg, and Solicitor Abbott felt the same, exact way.
Did ya know? Before he was anointed Margate city solicitor, John Scott Abbott was the attorney for Lucy the Elephant. Abbott argued that SLC, (Save Lucy Committee) was the rightful owner of Lucy.
So what changed Abbott’s mind? Margate’s insatiable hunger to develop every possible parcel of land. This grows the Margate ratable/tax base, giving city leadership more money to spend. It also provides for more job creation, targeted to friends of the Mayor-selected, Margate Planning Board.
The Save Lucy Committee and Director Rich Hephant have been successfully managing all things Lucy, for decades…with virtually NO taxpayer assistance.
From Press of Atlantic City Archives:
2008: Margate Mayor Mike Becker says he also wants to get an answer to the ownership question. And once that’s settled, he too is open to letting the Lucy committee formally take over as owner. “I’d like to settle it once and for all,” he said. “And if it turns out we can help them and not hurt the city, we’ll move forward with it.”
2008: Blumberg isn’t convinced that the two sides need legal research to settle the old dispute. He’d be open to establishing that the Lucy committee now owns Lucy the Elephant. “They want to be able to say they own it, and I think they’ve earned it,” Blumberg said. “All their hard work is appreciated by the city, and certainly by the current commissioners.”
2008: The Save Lucy committee once threatened to move Lucy. Where would it go? John Scott Abbott answered “Most of the interested parties are in Atlantic City, including several casinos. Many casinos would love to have her. Mentions to include her in The Walk (the city’s retail outlet section). But no official talks with anyone.”
In 2006, SLC atty, John Scott Abbott said this: Documents written since 1970 say the SLC leases the “premises” from the city. “The elephant was given to the nonprofit corporation. That’s the way I understand it,” Abbott said. “The city did not want it at the time. It costs more than peanuts to run Lucy the Elephant. I think it’s silly for the one commissioner (Swift) to think they can break the leases and dissolve the non-profit corporation set up to run Lucy.”
Save Lucy Committee may cast a vote on a new, proposed lease on July 14. Then, Margate Commissioners could vote to approve terms of a proposed lease on July 18. What happens if Save Lucy votes no? Will Becker, Amodeo & Blumberg evict the SLC and lock up Lucy?
City of Margate demanding 5 seats or more, on 15 member board. Relatives and friends of Mayor Becker to occupy most seats. Margate Commissioners want Helphant removed as director.
Before he became Lucy’s director, Helfant worked as an electrical inspector for the City of Margate. He was forced to sue several city officials in 1997, claiming discrimination against him because he’s gay. While unsuccessful with the suit, Helfant stayed on the job til November of 2000. Soon after, he went to work for Lucy.
Odd: Helfant noted that the Margate Master Plan doesn’t address Lucy in a historic preservation review that included the Parkway and Marven Gardens.
In 2008, Margate Commissioner Dan Campbell said:
- ‘Even if research shows Margate rightfully owns Lucy, he’d happily sell Lucy to Save Lucy Committee for $1’
- ‘It’s better for the elephant itself, for his group (SLC) to be established as the formal owners’
Helfant says a non-profit agency like SLC is in a much better position to get preservation or improvement grants. More than affluent Margate.
If Margate took ownership of the elephant, it becomes more burdensome on the Margate taxpayer. Managing Lucy would absolutely become more expensive to maintain, manage and operate.
Margate taxpayers don’t spend a penny on the management of Lucy. Under City control, that would all change.
Save Lucy Committee: “Helphant has done so much for Lucy in the last six years. Rich has placed Lucy on the world’s stage, providing a source of fame to Margate and its citizens.”
- Contrary to published reports, Bill Subin, board member of SLC, is NOT attorney for SLC.
- 1960s: Lucy was condemned by City of Margate. Minutes from wrecking ball.
- 1969: Save Lucy Committee was formed, raised funds, took control of Lucy and began restoration efforts.
- Lucy was built in 1881 as a way to attract real estate investors to the area.
- Helfant, as a 7th grader, sold candy bars and raised money to save Lucy.
- The monument was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976